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December 19, 2007 > The winner who lost all

The winner who lost all

By Tarun Bhatnagar
Photos By Courtesy of Samuel Odom

The holiday season is upon us, and fear of a belly rivaling Santa Claus is in the back of everyone's mind. Before throwing caution to the wind and gorging on foods loaded with unhealthy fats and catastrophic caloric contents, draw inspiration from the story of Samuel Odom, a man who miraculously won his fight against obesity by dropping 160 pounds. What made his achievement truly spectacular was that he lost the weight without a trainer, personal chef, liposuction, or weight loss pills.

Samuel Odom had always been a man who impressed those around him. Growing up in Fremont, he attended and graduated from Mission San Jose High School. While in high school he participated in wrestling, track and field, and football. Later, he was accepted into San Jose State University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies. Soon after, he went on to complete a Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary studies. However, all of these wonderful achievements could only be considered secondary to his amazing story of weight loss.

As a child, Odom had always been overweight. During his last year as a graduate student in college, he tipped the scale at 350 pounds. Sam began to exercise not to lose weight, but instead to help his nephew Nicholas Odom shape up for the approaching youth football season. At the time, the most he could do was walk around Lake Elizabeth, a local lake in Fremont. Odom and his nephew would walk for ten minutes a day, five days a week. Eventually, the pair graduated to walking for twelve minutes, and then fifteen. Finally, after a month of these exercises, Odom and his nephew were jogging for ten minutes a day.

After working out for about two months, Odom casually weighed himself, not realizing how much of an effect the exercise was taking. To his surprise, Odom dropped about 35 pounds. Without getting his hopes up, he decided to continue with his exercises even after his nephew started the football season.

Odom also completely changed his diet. He decided to give up all fast food, including his favorites, McDonalds and Carl's Jr. He also abstained from sodas, and replaced his cravings with Crystal Light and Pellegrino sparkling mineral water. Odom then began eating at Subway on weekdays. He would purchase a foot-long sandwich every day and eat half for lunch and the remainder for dinner. Accompanying his meals were two bags of light chips, and two plates of fruits such as strawberries and grapes. On weekends, Odom would give himself a break from sandwiches and eat other foods he enjoyed.

The workouts gained intensity over time, changing from a brisk jog, to running on his Pro-Form treadmill at home. Odom always felt it was important to start slowly, and gain endurance. He began with two mile runs, five days a week, and graduated to four miles a day for six days a week. He never overloaded himself, making sure that each workout did not affect his energy levels for the next day.

After consistently working out for one year (July 2006 - July 2007), Odom dropped 160 pounds. He went from a weight of 350 pounds to a trim weight of 190 pounds. During his college days, Odom wore 4XL t-shirts, and size 54 pants. Now, he can fit into a medium t-shirt or his nephew's football jerseys (Youth-xl), and wears size 33 pants.

When asked for his advice for others who are in his previous position, Odom stated that consistency is the main key. Odom said that it is better to start doing workouts on the lighter side that you are able to do five times a week, while also setting many small obtainable weight loss goals. As endurance grows, so should the rigor of the exercise. Another major contributing factor is diet. Many people starve themselves from eating, and end up crashing. Odom suggests that one should take a more moderate approach, eating healthy on the weekdays, and "relaxing" the diet on the weekends.

Overwork is also something to watch out for. Odom made sure that each of his workouts were not too stressful, allowing him to keep working out the next day. The last helpful tip Sam divulged was that all holidays should be planned out. When it is obvious that days of unhealthy food are coming, one should plan out what they are going to eat and when they are going to exercise. This serves a dual-purpose as it gives one something to look forward to, and allows one to have control over their intake of food.

When asked if it was all worth it, Odom stated, "Every time I get on the scale it is worth it. Every time I try on new clothes it is worth it. Anytime I go to the mall everything fits." Recently, Sam participated in the Third Annual Happy Fish Run 4 Education five kilometer marathon, finishing with an astounding time of 31 minutes and five seconds. He now runs four miles per day or for one hour, and has added pushups to his workout regimen. Odom has future plans of running in another marathon soon, applying for a PhD program and hopes to pursue a public health and wellness career to help serve his community in the fight against obesity.

What makes Samuel Odom's weight loss story so inspiring is that he was able to do it without any outside help. Furthermore, he did not have to cut back completely from eating what he wanted, and did not have to run on a treadmill for two hours a day, every day of the week. If losing weight is one of your New Year's resolutions, it may be time to get an early start. Odom proved that losing weight is an achievable goal, even without extraneous treatments and pills. If you stick with a plan and stay consistent, you will lose weight!

If you have any comments or questions about Odom's story you can email him at

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